Blue Hour Glow 20 sec, f/8, ISO 200
The sound of the alarm was as unpleasant as ever that morning, pulling me out of my short-lived but otherwise pleasant sleep. It was 2:30am in Calgary on the third day of my Canadian Rockies adventure. With the alarm ringing, while using all my willpower not to hit the snooze button, I struggled with the thought of scrapping the whole plan and catching up on much needed sleep. Of course, I anticipated this going to bed only a few hours earlier. After reminding myself of my objective and pushing all other thoughts and feelings of exhaustion aside, I finally got myself up. Drawing on whatever bit of mental strength I had, I quickly brushed my teeth, took a gulp of water, grabbed the camera bag and got myself outside, into the car and on the road.
I was headed to a favourite spot in Banff National Park, one that I spent some time at the previous day; this morning, I was to realize my vision and capture the often elusive reflection of Mount Rundle in all its golden hour glory. The morning, however, was still some hours away. The two-and-a-half hour drive at this time was absolutely brutal, even on a road I've taken a couple times by now. With no street lighting once out of the city, I could see no further ahead than my high beams and nothing whatsoever to either side. Cruising at just below the highway speed limit of 110 km/h, I was praying that I wouldn't encounter any wildlife on the road. The length of lit up pavement ahead was not enough for me to brake safely in time should an elk decide it wanted to get across. I slammed on the brakes once after running into a patch of fog that obscured what little I saw; otherwise, the drive was smooth enough, with the less-than-fresh and barely warm McDonalds coffee (I don't think they do any actual brewing at this hour) helping to keep me awake all the way through.
Success was far from certain, despite all the planning and preparation. Like every other day that week, the forecast showed mixed sun and clouds with a chance of rain, even thunder - anything was possible and there was nothing I could do about it but stay hopeful. My options were to stay in bed and miss the opportunity or lose that day's sleep and show up to clouds obscuring the main subject of that perfect photograph I had envisioned.
Over the last few days I really had gone the extra proverbial (and literal) mile to seek out the perfect locations, get familiar with them, and be there at just the right minute. But as you can imagine, regardless of your level of effort, luck remains a key ingredient to success. I never did see the sun that morning. Thankfully, on the evening of the same day, sunset and the subsequent blue hour were nothing short of glorious. Is this the same perfect photograph I initially envisioned? Not quite, but when is it ever? Nevertheless, with meticulous planning and persistence, I captured what turned out to be the next best thing. In fact, it may have turned out even better than what I first imagined; the precise spot and angle I chose that evening was different than my initially planned composition, which I might not have found had I not spent hours out there on this "unsuccessful" overcast morning.
I've realized that the result will always be different than the unrealistically perfect image initially thought up. But it's precisely this unwavering pursuit of perfection that got me the result you are looking at now, one I could not be more happy with.